LITERARY REVIEW

Story of a synthesis

Ethnography

JYOTI NAIR BELLIAPPA

Story of a synthesis

TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT is an exposition on the will of the human spirit located in Kutch. Randhir Khare's narrative weaves myth with legend, impressionistic statements with some rather profound jottings on the burdens of memory, history and selfhood. The aftertaste, however, is sombre: hallucinating nights with their trappings of rumour, unknown killings and events range impenetrably across vast stretches of time. The characters come alive through Susan Bullough's photographs and the author's ruminations. Ship-makers, potters, folk musicians, metal workers and other crafts persons inhabit the book with an abundance of colour and experience. Throughout the emphasis is on the survival of an ancient culture, the Kutchi spirit.

Khare traces the beginnings of Harappan civilisation and the arrival of Buddhism and Jainism. He draws upon linkages between the religious traditions of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Anecdotes explain the mysterious shape of mount Dhinodhar and ethnographic details attest to the vibrant survival of a plural cultural tradition. We learn that the Kutchis follow the Muslim "Hijr" calendar along with the more common Christian era. More particularly, he finds a patwadi Muslim maintaining a Shiva temple at Pateshwar in Bhuj. The Karakasim temple and dargah fusion at Amara and the very lineage of the Raos — the rulers of Kutch — reveal a splendid synthesis. The influence of folk saints is perceived as a legacy against organised religion. Folk musicians and performers like Musa Gulam Jat on the Jodiya Pawa or double-flute facing extinction, shared participation in festivals such as the Menkan Dada festival at Dhrang, the Seral local festival in Anjar, the Jakh festival at Saira, the festival of Ramdev Pir and the Kafis of Shah Abdul Latif Bitai appear to be rooted in the past. The book carries the aroma of freshly brewed tea served with fresh goat's milk, "the fragrance of sweat, sawdust, varnish, tar, paint, seasoning, wood and wild water".

Khare's poetry is concerned with little and large experiences, in connections with the entire universe, as it were. The photographs by Bullough capture the feel of wide, open spaces, delicate rhythms and the vitality and freshness of tribal imagery. The travelogue details the tastes of whole communities at work, their social milieu, energy and the seemingly infinite capacity to meet the wrath of silent juggernauts.

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